And the Winner of the Tart Side Challenge is… Me!

Turnagain Brewing graciously hosts a contest each year for members of the Great Northern Brewers Club called the Tart Side Challenge. Ted and Mary Rosenzweig, owners of the brewery, give each club member one gallon of wort containing the brewery’s proprietary sour culture from the solera tank we all affectionately call Big Bertha. Our task is to flavor the wort any way we wish, and to ferment it into beer. The entries get judged at the GNBC annual summer campout, and then Turnagain Brewing brews the winning recipe. Last year, Maria won the contest. When I created the recipe for my entry this year, I referred to my experience making small batch beers. I had been mixing beer and fruit for a couple of years now, and I know how much fruit to add to make a beer explode with flavor. I wanted to bottle-condition this beer, since oxidation is one of the easiest and worst things that can happen to a beer at this stage.  I also know that people generally tend to like slightly stronger beers over weaker ones. Since this was a beer tasting committee I was aiming to please, I added a 1/2 cup of malt extract to not only slightly increase ABV, but also to restart fermentation. I also added some of my own yeast from my yeast ranching project, since bottle-conditioning doesn’t work without yeast present.

I was unsure what fruit I wanted to put into the beer. Last year Maria won with a blueberry recipe, so I knew blueberries were a crowd pleaser. I also love the Piña Colada beer Ted has been making for Serrano’s Mexican Grill. It all became clear to me when I was making my morning smoothie with a healthy dosage of sour yogurt, pineapple, and blueberries.  Blueberries and pineapple would play the starring roles in my beer.

Ted didn’t have enough space to ferment my beer, so he used a French oak barrel, which added Brett to the equation. Ted and I were sipping on the finished beer at the brewery and I suggested that he bottle my beer, so we could cellar it to allow the Brett to develop. Since I’m the local beer artist, I also offered to make a label design for my beer. 

I had to design the label quickly, and I think best when I am out running on the trail. The next morning I figured it all out when doing my five mile loop.  I came up with the name, “Solera Eclipse” and decided upon a design inspired by the yin yang of T&C Surf Designs.  Ted’s solera is where the wort originated, and an eclipse is a noteworthy astronomical event.  The yin yang showed off the the contrast of the blueberries and pineapple perfectly.  Since it was fermented in Ted’s favorite old wine barrel, I included some barrel parts in the design making a sun. 

I am very excited to try the commercial version, I have one bottle left of my homemade version, and I look forward to sampling them back to back! The beer will be released at my art opening at Turnagain Brewing tomorrow (12/03/2021)! I’ll be there 5-8pm, and hope you’ll stop by to try my beer, check out my art, and buy a couple bottles to cellar.

Cheers to Turnagain Brewing for doing this fun contest for GNBC!

Ted taking a small sample of my beer from the barrel to see if the Brett flavor had sufficiently developed.
My design for the bottle label.
Solera Eclipse sour ale with blueberries and pineapple.

First Snow Day of the Year!

The first real snowfall of the year covers the grass and leaves, and provides winter light during the long, dark nights. Last night I was excited to see the tips of the stalks of grass obscured from view. The entire city illuminates from the reflective properties of the falling snow. This morning I was surprised to see eleven inches on our back porch. We went for a lovely 3-mile walk to the Helen L. McDowell Sanctuary, breaking trail the whole way! Upon our return, Maria and I spent a little over half an hour shoveling our driveway and walkways. There was about a foot of light and fluffy snow, so it wasn’t that hard. It’s still snowing as I write this, and all the clearing we did is now under another two inches.

I get really excited about the first day of snow, because I love winter! Skiing, fat-biking, ice skating and winter walks are all things I enjoy in winter.  Don’t get me wrong, I also love summer.  The hectic pace that ensues with all the daylight, the out-of-state visitors, and the insidious mosquitos that come along with the warmer weather make it a second best to me.  Third, comes late fall when it is cold, dark, and there is usually freezing rain.  Last, is early spring, when the meltdown makes everything ugly, and going outside is difficult due to half-frozen swampiness. 

Winter is my favorite.  There is a special quality to winter, especially in Alaska.  I mentioned the light from the snow. I can easily navigate at night without a headlamp, if a blanket of snow is reflecting any bit of moon or starlight.  My favorite thing about winter though, is semi-hibernating.  Nobody expects you to answer your phone after 9pm, and if you say you can’t make it because the roads seem too dangerous, people completely understand. In the summer people want you to go to work for 10 hours, then expect you to climb a mountain.  In the winter, if you spend 4 hours riding a chairlift, people might expect you to fall asleep while watching a movie afterwards. 

Snow is great! It makes winter real! Let it snow! I will shovel the driveway again this evening, right before I climb into bed at 9:15pm.

Sketches for Paintings, so Everyone Is on the Same Page

I’m one of few artists who accepts commissions, and completes them in an agreed-upon timeline. Some of my fellow artists have many valid reasons for not doing commissions, and one of them is fear that the client won’t like the painting. One of the ways I avoid this from happening is by making sure the patron is familiar with my style. I’m not a photographic painter, so if you want an exact likeness of your great-grandfather in oil paint, I’ll refer you to someone else. If you want a colorful, textural painting that captures the vibe of the scene, then I’m glad to work with you. An important step in the commissioning process that I never skip is providing sketches to my clients for approval. I will not start painting until a sketch is approved. Sometimes the first sketch is a go, and other times I go back to the drawing board and make changes until the client gives me the go-ahead. This way everyone is on the same page. Here are three examples of sketches, and the final product. As you can see, a sketch is used to show the patron where each object will be placed, and the proportions.

I’m working on two sketches today for commissioned paintings, so I’m going to get back to that now. Until next time!

A Surprise Trip to a Hop Farm!

We recently got back from a trip to America — I hadn’t left the State of Alaska for over two years!  Maria and I had to go to Pullman, WA to attend my aunt’s memorial service.  We decided to make the flight worthwhile by extending our trip a bit to go see some of the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park.  Did you know there are 63 National Parks in the US? The Olympic National Park is pretty wet in late September.  The highlights for me were walking to the Sol Duc waterfall, and soaking in the hot springs there.  Hot springs are nice in the rain. We also saw the biggest Sitka spruce tree in the world, and the largest red cedar tree.  They are huge! 

The largest red cedar tree in the world!

We had to drive to Pullman for the memorial, so we decided to stop in Yakima along the way, because we knew it was time for hop harvest!  First thing we did was go to the hop shop, Yakima Valley Hops.  Surprisingly, this year’s hops were not available there yet.  I bought a little bit of last year’s harvest, which smelled pretty good.  The sales attendant was very helpful and told me to come back in three weeks when the hops would all be ready for sale.  We asked about stopping at a local farm, and she recommended going to CLS Farms, and maybe we could get a tour there.  That evening we went to the Public House of Yakima, and sampled about 15 different fresh hop ales!  Some were good, and some were quite… interesting.  We learned about NDA — non-disclosure ale, which means the hop variety used in that beer is a secret!  The Public House offers 5oz pours and serves up flights of different brews.  Saturday was going to be the big fresh hop beer festival, but we had to be at the memorial at that time.  Still, I feel I got a pretty good example at the Public House of local fresh-hop IPAs.  

All fresh-hop IPAs!
NDA – non-disclosure ale

In the morning we planned to stop at Bale Breaker Brewing, our favorite brewery (with a small hop farm) in the Yakima Valley, to get supplied for the trip to Pullman, but they were not going to open until 3pm.  Instead, Maria found directions to CLS Farms, and we followed a hop truck into their parking lot.  I nervously knocked on the office door and a strapping young man came out.  We told him what we were about, and asked about a tour.  He said he could give us a tour right now!  They were actively harvesting El Dorado hops, a critical ingredient in some special West Coast IPAs.  He said a lot of it goes straight to California to Stone Brewing, for their “Drink By” series, and the El Dorado IPA.  Huge plants were being loaded onto the conveyor and being stripped of flowers.  The air was astringent with pungent hop aroma!  It felt like breathing IPA.  There are two hop stripping machines at CLS, but what was really interesting was the kilns that dry the hops.  Rows of huge flat trays about 50×50 feet large, and four feet deep were filled with full cone hop flowers!  After a couple of hours they pull up ropes from the bottom of the trays, and the hops from the bottom are stirred to the top — a cool, low-tech way to ensure an even drying process.  Next, we went to the baling station.  I wanted to buy a bale from our guide, but it was 200lbs, and I don’t know how I would have gotten it back to Alaska.  I could have bought some fresh hops on the spot, but our tour guide said they start going bad after 24 hours.  We got a picture with the hop pile at the baling station, and I guess that will have to be good enough.  Our guide said that most of their hops go straight to CA, with Sierra Nevada, and Stone Brewing showing up with fleets of trucks and getting the stuff straight from the farm.  I have to say I was a little jealous of the quality of the hops that were not available to me, a super small-time home-brewer-artist guy.  

We stopped at Fred Meyer and bought a few six packs of Bale Breaker brews, and headed to Pullman.  I will never forget the hop farm experience!  Those guys need a brewery at the farm to give the whole hop experience, something for us hopheads to wet our lips with, and not just smell!            

Burning Dude, McCarthy, AK, September 11, 2021, 9:11pm

Burning Dude 2021

I know that Burning Man is an established event that has been happening for decades,  but I have never been.  I basically don’t know anything about the event, except that it is a wickedly insane art festival where they burn a temple at the end, sometimes with a man at the top.  A week-long avant-garde art event with 70,000 people all showing up to party and experience being human together in the middle of a hot, dusty desert.  

Dave Hollis, my friend in McCarthy, is a retired computer programmer who I would consider to be the social guru for the Kennicott River Valley.  This guy knows what is happening, where it is happening, and also plans some amazing events of his own.  In McCarthy, around 2009 Dani Evans and B-Mac built a Burning Woman, and she asked Hollis to be a fire tender.  Four years ago in 2018, Hollis and Brady, and some other McCarthy locals, decided to make a small version of Burning Man, which they called Burning Dude.  It is a fragment of the Nevada festival, and can’t even be compared, but it is still a hoot, and a lot of fun.  I missed the Burning Woman, and I also missed the first Dude, who was 12 feet tall, and I heard was awesome.  In 2019 fire danger was high, so there was no Dude.  The second Burning Dude in 2020 was designed by Seth, a local fire dancer, and I helped erect the dude with 10 other people, while Brady quickly nailed supports to keep it upright.  It burned, but never fully caught on fire.  The sculpture was 34 feet tall.  The oversized head was dropped and ignited later, providing plenty of entertainment.  I told the team that I have sculpture training and would like to help build next year’s Dude.

Burning Dude 2020

This fall, both Seth and Brady were not available to build the Dude.  Hollis was bummed, but he asked me if I thought it could still happen without them.  I gathered a small team: my wife Maria, my cousin Cameron, and of course Hollis.  I designed the Dude on a sheet of paper, to be built from log mill slabs, which are fairly irregular, and have a lot of bark on them.  I took an afternoon the day before to gather twigs from the bottom of spruce trees from my ten-acre lot, and loaded them onto my trailer.  The next day, Maria and I drove down to McCarthy, picked up Cameron and we unloaded the brush on the bank of the Kennicott River.  Then we drove over to Hollis’ house where we picked up about 200 spruce slabs.  We chucked them down to the Kennicott river, and we started to build.  I had packed a ton of tools, including my cordless drill, driver, chainsaw, a million screws and nails, as well as wire.  First, I built a sturdy box, and then we built the feet and legs.  We attached the torso, and put on the arms.  Finally we built the head, and put a crown of sparklers on top of it.  Hollis and Maria juggled the head up to Cameron, who was standing on the box.  Cameron hoisted the head up to me, as I crouched inside the torso.  I quick-like attached the head and then had to remove my chainsaw helmet to extract myself from the torso.  Next, we stuffed the spruce branches all over the dude and filled the box, torso and head.  I bought a gallon of vegetable oil and we stapled oily paper towels all over the Dude.  We were building the Dude in a prominent location, right next to the foot bridge, where everyone saw us.  Hollis did a great job telling people to show up at 9pm for Burning Dude.

We had three hours to spare before the scheduled ignition, so we went to Mark and Livvi’s new house for ice cream and hot dogs.  At 9pm, a fairly large crowd had gathered around the Dude.  All four of us ignited him at 9:11pm on 9/11!  I knew the spruce boughs would work, and vegetable oil is essentially as combustable as diesel fuel.  It ignited in three stages: first the box platform, then the torso, and finally the head.  The head had this amazing glowing crown above it from the sparklers, and then it kept burning even after the branches all burned up.  The paper towels were amazing.  The head fell in after 11 minutes, but the Dude lasted about 44 more before Malcolm decided to kick the box over.  I was so pleased with how well everything worked.  I thank Maria, Cameron and especially Hollis for making this possible!  Not as spectacular as Burning Man festival in Nevada, but Burn Dude was a success in 2021!   

Cabin Life

What is a typical day like at our cabin in McCarthy these days?  The last three days I have been installing hardwood flooring.  A project like that pretty much takes all day, and when you finally get to a good stopping point, you simply quit for the day, and maybe you can do a few other chores like cooking and cleaning.  I finished the floor yesterday just in time, only a few hours before the rain started.  Last night it rained heavily, and I was so happy that my load of flooring was all in its rightful place, instead of stored on the trailer under a tarp. 

On days I am not working on a big project, I enjoy coffee time while reading e-mails and doing my daily Duolingo lessons.  Then I do about 40 minutes of yoga, followed by a five mile run around the neighborhood.  Then I have breakfast, and finally get around to doing some work for the art business.  Today I had to work on a graphics project, send off a bio to a publisher for a book I illustrated, and write this blog post.  I will probably go to Art Lab (my studio) for a bit and mix up some oil paint, and get started on a 11”x14” commissioned painting for a client.  At 4pm I will Zoom in for my hour-long Russian language lesson.  Then I’ll probably have a beer on the deck, grill some salmon for dinner, and then pick lingonberries.  After dinner we may play pingpong, or I might go visit my neighbor whose parents are arriving tonight.  Maybe Maria and I will play a game of Yahtzee, or sit around the campfire and listen to some tunes. 

Cabin life is good!  I burn wood in the wood stove, and wash my clothes with rainwater.  The fresh glacier air is crisp this time of year.  I love taking life a little more simply than I do when I’m in the city.  I guess that is what cabins are good for.      

Rainier Bear 2.0

In 2016 I was inspired by a news story to paint one of my most popular beer paintings, called Rainier Bear. In addition to selling the original oil painting, I had also released 52 limited-edition prints of the image. I sold the original, and all 52 prints. This is only the second time I’ve sold out of a limited-edition run! Now that all 52 are sold, I won’t sell that image as a signed print again (stickers are available though). So, I decided to paint a new version of this bear, because I just really like him, and Rainier beer is so iconic to me, since I was born in Washington. So, here you have it, Rainier Bear 2.0!

Cheers to these cute trouble-makers!

This original oil painting, and signed fine-art prints are available at my Etsy shop RealArtIsBetter.

Rainier Bear 2.0, 14″x11″, oil on panel by Scott Clendaniel

The Importance of Lighting for Viewing Art

Lighting can change the appearance of paintings more than you might expect.  Not just paintings, but any surface color can be shifted by changing light.  I am reminded of a time I was picking colors for a sticker design and I chose a red-orange instead of the cherry-red the client wanted. The evening light through my old apartment drapes affected my choice. Little to say, I had to make a quick reorder of stickers for that client.  When I moved into this new house, the room designated for the studio was painted garishly orange.  I decided to take a week to repaint the whole room, about 420 square feet of space, because I wanted to have a neutral color experience.  

I have two lamps that I have been using for photography that I started using to supplement light in the middle of the studio.  I have about as many windows as the rental studio on 4th Ave had, but the room is bigger, and the windows are spread around both sides of the room, so it is nice to have a supplemental lamp in the center.  The lamp has a toggle control that switches it from warm to cool light, and you can see how the painting shifts in color.  I have added a video to this blog for you to see this effect. It makes you realize how important correct lighting is for displaying paintings, and is something that should be considered when creating and installing art.

How I’ve Been Using My DJI Mavic Mini Drone

Last year at the end of December I purchased a drone.  This is my second one — Maria got me a “starter” drone for my birthday a year ago, which I didn’t crash, but caused to quit working due to a software malfunction that I could not fix.  It was a cool present, but it didn’t have the camera I was looking for.  I was glad to pick up a DJI Mavic Mini from Costco.  It’s really easy to use, and small enough that you can easily put it into a backpack to take places. It connects to your smartphone, and uses a joystick control that I had already became familiar with on the first drone, and a previous toy helicopter I used to crash into the ceiling and floor a lot.  The drone is great, because it allows me to take pretty high quality aerial photography and videos that I would never be able to get otherwise.  Drones are like ATV’s — they are annoying to people who do not have them, but are incredibly useful.  Everyone is imagining that they are being surveilled, with highly detailed photos captured of them, but you have to push the shutter button to take a picture, or to record a video. This particular drone does not have a zoom lens, so seeing who is in the photographs is actually difficult, unless I fly the drone up really, really close.  I use it mostly to take pictures of people’s cabins in McCarthy (with their permission) and to get cool shots from angles impossible to get otherwise.  

I had a great time at my friend Bob Cook’s cabin when he invited a group of people over on a hot day for a swimming party in his pond.  The shots from the air turned out really neat, and I had a good time chasing kids around the pond.  

The DJI Mavic Mini has a pretty short range — about 200 meters.  I think it would be a lot cooler to get one that can go a bit farther. My next drone will definitely have a longer range, but for now I am having a blast getting aerial shots with the one I have. I took a bunch of pics of Arctic Valley Ski Area, which I am going to reference while creating a new trail map of the mountain.  

I had always wanted to get into flying drones, and I love flying this one. I’m sure it is just one of many I will own in the future.  A drone is a great tool for an artist to have in his/her quiver of image-gathering devices.  Cheers to flying remotely! I hope you enjoy the pics and videos I made with my flying camera.

Drone footage of brave souls kayaking and rafting the Kennicott River during Jökulhlaup
Bob and Sunny Cook’s Cabin in McCarthy, Alaska
Nancy Cook’s Cabin in McCarthy, Alaska
Our cabin
Me standing on the bridge across Kuskulana River on the McCarthy Road
After a dinner party at the Rice’s cabin in McCarthy, Alaska

“The First Thing You’re Going to Paint is the Walls!”

As you may have read in the previous post, we bought a house, and combined our living and working space, so we moved out of the studio on 4th Ave. As you can imagine, I haven’t been able to get much work done, because I’ve been spending all my time moving, shopping for furniture, and spending three relaxing days in Cordova to celebrate Maria’s birthday. One of our friends came over to check out the new house, and when she saw my studio downstairs, she said, “The first thing you’re going to paint is the walls!” The previous owner had quite a festive taste, and painted the large room downstairs in three different shades of orange. So, yesterday I began the long process of covering up the orange paint. I worked on one painting right when I moved in, because it had to be done by a deadline, and the light in that room was really screwed up because of the bright orange. I felt like the greens in the painting turned out weird, because the room was playing tricks on my eyes. So, before I do any more painting, I’m covering the walls with pure white primer. I’m on the second coat, and I think it will take three coats!!! So, if you need me, you know where I’ll be for the next few days — painting the walls in my new studio.

If you think this is bad, check out the next photo.
It looks brighter IRL!

By the way, our condo is on the market. Click here to check out the listing.